After an exciting friendly against Venezuela at our very own Rio Tinto, the US national team is back in action in World Cup qualifying as they take on the Soca Warriors of Trinidad & Tobago in what will be a critical home game for the US.
Let’s break down everything you need to know in preparation for the upcoming game:
When: Thursday, June 8th at 6:00pm Mountain Time.
Where: Commerce City, Colorado
How to watch: FS1, Univision, UDN
Why it matters: The reality is that every World Cup qualifier is important, but some are definitely more important than others. If a team is to advance in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, it has to win it’s home games. If a team can win all 5 home games, and grab a draw or win here or there on the road, they are almost guaranteed advancement.
Currently the US sits in the 4th spot out of 6 teams with only goal differential separating them from Honduras. The top 3 spots automatically qualify for the World Cup (currently Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama). The 4th place team will play against the winner of the Asian confederation for the final spot in the World Cup. Thursday night’s game will signal the halfway point of qualification, and with a win by the US, and what is presumed to be a loss from Honduras at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico, we will put 3 big points between us and the Catrachos. Therein lies the need to take all 3 points from our game against T&T on Thursday night.
Who is T&T?
Trinidad and Tobago are known as the Soca Warriors. Soca is a type of music that originated in T&T and is short hand for “Soul of Calypso.” While T&T may not be considered a big rival by the US, the US is a game that the Soca Warriors will always get up for. There is a bit of a historical ax to grind for T&T in regards to the US. The small caribbean nation was on the verge of their first ever qualification into the World Cup back in 1989. In the last game of qualification if they could get a home win against a US team that hadn’t qualified for the World Cup in 40 years, they would be on to Italy in 1990. However, a US defensive midfielder by the name of Paul Caligiuri struck what came to be known as the “shot heard round the world” in the 30th minute of the match to dash the dreams of the small nation and propel the US back into soccer relevance for the first time in decades.
In 2006 T&T found some level of redemption when they became the smallest country to ever feature in a World Cup. The played in group B in Germany against the likes of England, Swede, and Paraguay. They underwhelmed, registering zero goals scored, 4 conceded, and walked away dead last in the group with only 1 point. But history was theirs none the less.
Players to Watch:
USA’s Jozy Altidore - Jozy missed the friendly last Saturday as he attended to family matters and boy was he missed. Neither Clint Dempsey or Bobby Wood could get much going by way of chances as the forwards sputtered. Jozy has been in solid form for his club team this season registering 6 goals and 4 assits on 13 games played. He should get the start against Trinidad and Tobago. With his strength and presence up top he will be able to draw the attention of both center backs, allowing more time and space for the midfield to go to work.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Kenwyne Jones - T&T’s modus operandi anytime they are playing in the US is to bunker and try to strike on the counter. There is no reason that this won’t continue on Thursday night. T&T sit in last place in the 6 team hex however and cannot afford to not get at least a point, preferably 3 of course. So they will have to open up and play a little more of an attacking style. This is where Jones comes into play. He is big and strong, similar to Jozy Altidore. Even more important is that he has played meaningful minutes this season for Atlanta United in MLS. He is no stranger to many of the players he will play against on Thursday and that familiarity will only help him feel more confident that he can find the back of the net. He will give Geoff Cameron and John Brooks plenty to deal with and could just cause some stomaches to drop if he gets in behind the back four.
World Cup qualifiers are always a dodgy affair and there will be moments where you feel your hands sweat and your heart skip a beat. While that may be the case early on as the US and Trinidad & Tobago are getting a feel for the game, by halftime expect your nerves to be a little more settled. Our prediction is a solid showing by the US and a 2-0 win for the Yanks.